Mono- and Diglycerides

Natural Occurrence

Composed of fatty acids linked to glycerol, mono- and diglycerides belong to the family of glycerides. Triglycerides (the fats and oils that make up our dietary fat sources) are naturally metabolized by enzymes in our bodies to form mono- and diglycerides and individual fatty acids. There is also evidence that mono- and diglycerides may be formed during the preparation of certain foods. Therefore, mono- and diglycerides are considered a type of lipid or fat source.

Mono- and diglycerides may be manufactured through the reaction of plant- or animal-derived fatty acids with glycerol, or via the breakdown of plant- or animal-derived fats and oils. Natural sources of fatty acids and mono- and diglycerides include: plant oils such as soybean, grapeseed, canola, sunflower, cottonseed, coconut, and palm oil; plant pomace such as grape pomace or tomato pomace; as well as some animal fats.

Mono- and diglycerides have an extensive history of production and use, allowing for more economical production with greater purity and more consistent quality. Most importantly, regardless of source or how they are produced, mono- and diglycerides are subject to the same strict food safety standards applied to the production of all foods.

Functionality

Mono- and diglycerides are typically categorized as emulsifiers, which allow for smooth mixing of ingredients, prevent separation, reduce stickiness, control crystallization, keep ingredients dispersed, help products dissolve more easily, and contribute to overall product stability. They are often found in infant formula, salad dressings, peanut butter, chocolate, frozen foods, as well as confectionary products. In bakery products, they are useful for improving loaf volume and texture, keeping baked goods soft and moist. In this way, their function is similar to other food ingredients, including soy lecithin and egg yolks. In addition to their functionality as emulsifiers, mono- and diglycerides may also be used as edible coatings applied directly to the surface of foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, to protect against spoilage and decay.

Keeping Food Safe

Mono- and diglycerides are considered to be GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and their safety has been recognized and affirmed by regulatory bodies around the world. For this reason, mono- and diglycerides can be used in food with no limitation other than the requirement of manufacturers to comply with Good Manufacturing Practices. In addition to the large body of evidence demonstrating the safety of mono- and diglycerides for use as food additives, they have been safely consumed for decades due to their natural, low level occurrence in seed oils such as olive oil and rapeseed (canola) oil, and due to their occurrence in the human body as a result of natural metabolic processes.

It’s On The Label

Like other food additives, including those considered as GRAS, levels of mono- and diglycerides will be reflected on the food label when used in foods. However, they may be categorized according to synonymous common names. For example, on the ingredient list of many processed food products, mono- and diglycerides are often labeled as simply monoglycerides, monoacylglycerols, or glycerolipids.

Making Food Better Every Day

Mono- and diglycerides are one of many food additives that contribute to a modern and safe food supply while enhancing the quality of many of the food products we eat every day—think creamier salad dressings, bread that is the right amount of soft and moist, and fruits and vegetables that maintain their peak freshness and quality. Quality products not only make eating more enjoyable, but they also contribute to waste reduction and improved food security and dietary diversity by ensuring that products on the shelves meet consumer needs and maintain their integrity throughout their shelf-life.